Religious Change and Disturbed Religious Ecosystems in Jiangsu, China
Talk by Professor Robert Weller
October 26, 2017 | 4:00-6:00 pm
Orozco Room (#712) | 66 W. 12th St, NY, The New School
About the Talk
Rapid urban expansion in wealthy parts of China has led to the resettlement of many villagers into high-rise buildings, making earlier forms of material and cultural life impossible. At the same time, large-scale urban reconstruction has displaced many old city neighborhoods. One result is that the territorially-based religion described in much of the anthropological and historical literature has become increasingly untenable as the entire ecosystem surrounding it has grown unstable. This talk examines what appears to be an especially creative zone for religious innovation: the expanding urban edge. The cases come from various cities in southern Jiangsu and focus on ghost attacks, a spirit medium network, and innovations in the forms and objects of temple worship. Theoretically, the paper thinks about ecosystems in the broadest sense of complexly articulated systems, without assuming a divide between nature and culture.
About the Speaker
Robert Weller is Professor of Anthropology & Director of Graduate Studies at Boston University. Weller’s work concentrates on China and Taiwan in comparative perspective. His actual research topics, however, are eclectic—running from ghosts to politics, rebellions to landscape paintings. Perhaps what unites everything is an interest in finding the limits to authority in all its settings. His publications include Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion (1987), Resistance, Chaos, and Control in China: Taiping Rebels, Taiwanese Ghosts and Tiananmen (1994), Alternate Civilities: Chinese Culture and the Prospects for Democracy (1999), Discovering Nature: Globalization and Environmental Culture in China and Taiwan (2006), and Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity (2008).